Buffalo - a Book and Food Review
Custer National Park, South Dakota, 1993
Buffalo For The Broken Heart
Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch
by Dan O'Brien
Slowly, very slowly, I am climbing my "Mount TBR" from last Christmas- any new books will now be considered as "summer reading", I'm afraid. This book was a gift from my eldest, along with a package of frozen buffalo (American bison) meat. The meat was fantastic- everything that feedlot beef is not. I knew already that bison meat is low in fat and possesses a delicious flavor when not over-cooked. This book explained a lot of about how modern buffalo ranching has developed in the last twenty years, and about how raising buffalo in an environmentally sound fashion not only produces the highest quality meat, but also how it can restore the prairie grasslands, and even how it could restore broken spirits.
Dan O'Brien is a veteran writer of both fiction and non-fiction. He is also a bit of a dreamer, and a modern cowboy, a man for all seasons, who took it upon himself, in the aftermath of a broken marriage, to start a buffalo ranch in South Dakota. He had done cattle ranching- which is always a sketchy proposition in that semi-arid climate- and failed, when he decided to try raising buffalo. Dan's story flows naturally as he gives background on the struggle between the people and the land, and how buffalo are suited to it, and how they can also restore it in a way cattle cannot.
There is a lot of heartbreak and anguish in this book, but there is also hope, especially in O'Brien's descriptions of the ways buffalo behave and interact with each other and the land. This is a great book, one of the very best books I've read about living in balance with the land and the animals who inhabit it.
Dan's operation is still going strong after a decade, if his prices seem steep remember; this is the highest quality mammalian protein you can get. Anyone with any kind of discerning palate will be aware of this in the first bite. There are many other buffalo operations now, we got ours from Paradise Buffalo Ranch in Bagley, Minnesota, perhaps not quite as "wild" as Dan's, but not as expensive either.